Monday, September 21, 2015

Park Creek in Glacier

Last mountain goat survey of the season: Park Creek, Glacier National Park.

I can tell why they needed someone to do this site— it’s 11 miles into the backcountry.  To pull it off in one day requires 22 miles.  Plus, this southern section is not a popular area.  One friend say this area is “boring” and that it’s “just trees.” All of this suits me perfectly!
Just trees.
At the survey site, I spot them quickly: three mountain goats, mere specks on the distant cliff.  Now that I’ve got the search image after a whole season of doing surveys, they jump out at me.  Still, I scan for a full hour, just to see if I missed any.
Borrowed gear for the mountain goat survey.  As a VIP volunteer, I even get an NPS radio!
Doing surveys on my hikes gives me purpose in where I go on my days off.   It is fun to be engaged, to be observant for a reason.  To wonder about the goats, to feel like I'm doing my part to help them.  Like I am making an effort to protect this place and the wild creatures that live here. 
Can you see the mountain goat on the distant cliff face?
Afterwards I find out I have volunteered over 160 hours this summer doing surveys at 22 sites.  I may not have hiked anywhere near the number of miles that I did last year, but somehow seeing the tally of my volunteer hours fills me with a deep satisfaction that can’t be quantified.

How else can you respond to this overwhelming beauty?
Fall in Glaicer.
For more information:
Volunteer for Glacier National Park's Citizen Science Program
Hike the Park Creek Trail from Walton Ranger Station.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gunsight Pass

A classic overnight backpack in Glacier National Park- Gunsight Pass.  WITH FRIENDS!
Hitchhiking from McDonald Lodge to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
Deadwood Falls.  We hypothesize that they have given the prettiest places in Glacier unattractive names for the purpose of trying to decrease visitation.
One at a time.
Just as we were wondering what makes a glacier different from a snowfield, we meet three volunteers who can answer our question: glacier MOVE, and are greater than 25 acres.
If gale force winds weren’t making us feel unstable enough, remains from a recent snowfall keep us conscious of gravity.
Why are the rocks so many colors?  No geologists showed up to answer this question, unfortunately.  Will need to research geology references for this area.  Anyone have recommendations?
Having trouble fitting all this NATURE into my camera.
"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower." -Albert Camus
Folded strata of Gunsight Mountain.
Switchbacking down the cirque to Lake Ellen Wilson campsite.
Habituated mountain goats circle our campsite during the night and brush against tents/ tarps, seeking salt from our urine and sweat.
Another camper reported being stalked by goats on his 3 AM trip to the privy.  He joked about it in the morning, but said it wasn’t funny when he was in the pitch dark wearing only his boxer shorts!
Overall, this was a gorgeous hike and I'm delighted to return to Lake Ellen Wilson after my first "failed" attempt to camp here.  Much better this time with friends. 

More on mountain goats
Reading Chadwick's A Beast the Color of Winter, has given me a much better understanding of the goats.

Read Glacier National Park mountain goat action plan here.

Here is another article about the habituated goats in Washington with more about why they are attracted to urine. 

Do your part around habituated goats-- try to pee in the privy, and if not be sure to pee on rocks (to prevent goats from digging up plants).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Grinnell Glacier

If you hike popular trails in Glacier National Park during early September, you do not hike alone.  Especially not on the trip to Grinnell Glacier from Many Glacier.
Water and rock on the trail to see the glacier.
The hikers I pass are talkative, sharing delight in the scenery and assuring me the climb is “worth it.”  (Guess they don’t know that I love the climbing part.)  I get the impression that because I am solo, they are more open to stopping to chat. A few seem worried about me hiking by myself, and leave me with a cautionary “Be careful.”  How do they all seem to know I’m solo, and not just ahead of my hiking partner?

A few miles in, I start to hear stories of the grizzly and her two cubs.  Each passing version of the story has a different angle.  “The grizzlies were above the trail.” “They went down the valley.”  “Those tourists ran towards the grizzlies and got close to the cubs!”  “Look at this photo of the crazy tourists getting right up close to the mama and cubs—they are such idiots!” 

Two hikers are stopped with binoculars pointing across the valley.  They point and finally I can see the grizzly followed by her two cubs, tiny specks on the far hillside. 
On that far cliff is the grizzly and cubs.
I’m glad I didn’t see them up close.  They traveled quickly, to now be that far away already.

I keep climbing up to the glacier.  Making extra noise.  Then the sight takes my breath away.
WOW this is Grinnell Glacier!  What a sight!  It is worth it!
All of these glaciers and ice fields used to be one continuous glacier, but are now getting smaller and breaking up as a result of climate change.  I'm glad I got to see this glacier now, while it's still here.  Because it'll be gone soon.
On the return trip, I wonder if I will see the grizzlies again.  There are long stretches without any other hikers, so I sing and make noise around blind corners.

All is clear though.  
For more information on this hike:
Grinnell Glacier